Computer Science Student's Internship at NASA Fulfills Lifelong Dream

UNT student Jonathan Roosa

My name is Jonathan Roosa, and I am currently starting my third year at UNT in the CSE Department, studying Computer Science. Over this past Summer, I represented UNT at NASA, where I interned with the International Space Station (ISS) Vehicle Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. While there, I finished the development of an in-house web application called the Integrated Tracking System (ITS). This web application tracks commitments for the organization that require funding or manpower support that impact the maintenance, payload facility, or general utilization of the ISS. Basically, ITS is used to keep track of any existing and proposed projects with related financial data, and a critical tool for the ISS Vehicle Office management team for making budgetary decisions. A user of the application can search and filter through projects on a multitude of queries, and can then export the data into an Excel format for further usage by the ISS Vehicle Office.

Since August 2012, the ISS Vehicle Office has used a Microsoft SharePoint version of ITS, which lacks the functionality and speed that the users require. In the Summer of 2015, the ISS Vehicle Office hired an intern to plan and design a new in-house ITS web application that functioned similarly to the SharePoint version, but with automation, speed improvements, a better layout, and more. This new ITS application consists of three parts: A SQL Database, an ASP.Net Web API backend programmed in C#, and a frontend in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and the AngularJS framework. I am the third intern to work on this application, and my job was to complete final features for the application then deploy it for usage.

I spent the initial weeks at NASA becoming familiar with the code and discovered multiple minor issues. I resolved these issues by extensively refactoring the application code, such as the add/edit item system and condensing duplicate views. I then worked on enhancing the application and adding new features based on user input. My major accomplishments and improvements included:

  • Adding user roles and login functionality by integrating with NASA’s Launchpad Authentication System
  • Adding item history tracking that keeps track of any and all changes to an item in ITS
  • Adding workflow / budget process integration functionality that helps automate the process for getting an item from proposal to project
  • Adding custom reports that allow for preset filters and queries
  • Adding user settings and extensive administrative functionality
  • Fixing multiple software issues that appeared during development and testing
  • Performing a final beta test of the web application
  • Deploying the web application with the cooperation of the IT team.

My time at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and working with the ISS Vehicle Office has definitely proven to be a pivotal life experience. Through the opportunity to work alongside NASA employees, I gained an understanding of the professional environment and contributing as a team member. In addition, I learned a multitude of skills and gained invaluable experience with multiple programming languages and concepts, such as SQL and AngularJS, as well as the workings of the ASP.Net Web API and how to develop a web application that interacts with a browser. This internship was also my first major experience developing an application for multiple end users, as well as my first experience working with pre-existing code on a large project. And most importantly, I lived out a lifelong dream of working on something that benefits space exploration, establishing the foundations for a future career with NASA and advancing the human exploration of space.

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